Food is Care
An Interview with Marla Koroly, MD
A hospital must have a well-trained medical staff that remains up-to-date on the latest advancements in care, as well as the technologies that make that care possible. But one aspect of care that is often overlooked is nutritional health. “Traditionally, hospitals haven’t focused on nutrition or its role in improving health,” says Marla Koroly, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH). “But a hospital stay is an ideal time to teach patients about the rewards and health benefits of a good diet.”
In general, nutrition is very important for your health. For example, good nutrition is especially important in cancer recovery because it helps to support the immune system. That’s why Northern Westchester Hospital introduced the Food Is Care program with a key goal being to utilize the time spent with a patient to expose them to healthy, satisfying food that tastes great.
As an element of the Food is Care philosophy, NWH recently implemented a room service-style ordering system. Patients have menus in their rooms and when they call to place an order, the nutrition associate taking the order enters it into a computer linked to the patient’s medical record. Food choices that are inappropriate for the patient’s diet are “grayed out,” so the associate can help guide the patient to food selections best for their diet. As part of the program, registered dieticians work with patients to help reinforce good decisions and steer them away from foods that are inappropriate for their condition by offering tasty and healthy alternatives. These interactions provide for great “teaching moments” and enable dietary experts to educate patients on how proper diets can improve their medical conditions. Keeping food simple, tasty and healthy enables patients to experience first hand that healthy food can taste great.
Three patient menus are available including a heart healthy version, known as the Eat-Well-To-Feel-Well Diet; one tailored for diabetic patients; and a liquid diet for patients who need a liquid diet due to an acute illness. Each basic diet can be modified, based on patient preference, for example to eliminate gluten if necessary or to make the diet vegetarian. This enables doctors to make simple, but impactful dietary adjustments. The menus and ordering system interface with patient electronic medical records, so that doctors and dieticians are able to ensure patients are getting the nutritional content they need.
The bottom line is that hospitals can have a big impact on people’s eating habits and must set the healthy standard and the nutritional model to help influence patients. Food preparation can be fun, simple, and when done the right way, have a positive and meaningful impact on patients’ overall health.
Check out recipes from the Culinary Institute trained chefs at NWH